Alec Finlay

For this week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus we are looking at artist, poet and University of Stirling alumnus Alec Finlay.

Alec returned to Stirling in 2013 as the University’s first Artist in Residence, to research the science and culture of beekeeping and create new bee-themed public sculptures for the Art Collection.

Alec was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and worked collaboratively between Stirling’s Faculties of Natural Sciences and Arts & Humanities.  He collaborated in particular with Professor Kathleen Jamie, Chair in Creative Writing and multi award-winning poet, who shares his creative interests in the natural world.

Alec Finlay said: “Stirling is renowned worldwide for its scientific bee research, particularly its work on the destructive impact of insecticides on wild bee populations so I was able to draw on this expertise and use it to inform my work”. 

Alec’s research at Stirling was wide-reaching and explored the symbolism of bees in ancient myth and philosophy, and the recurring motif of the bee in accounts of politics, economics and society. He also looked at contemporary scientific studies of bee communication, cognitive behaviour and honeycomb construction and consider bees’ relevance to a diverse range of subjects including architecture, Systems Theory, informatics and social networks.

Alec Finlay reading ‘Global Oracle’, a book-length poem, interweaving the bee-cults of the ancient world, most famously the Melissai of the Delphic oracle, with the science of apiology, bee communication, and the predominant ‘oracle’ of our era, the Navstar satellite system.

He produced a ‘creative survey’ of the UK’s bee population and translated his research into poetry and sculpture.  Together with the Art Collection’s curators he installed 21 permanent Bee Library artworks on campus. 

Bee Library on Stirling Campus (Hannah Devereux)

Bee Libraries are collections of bee-related books converted into nests for bees.   You can find them all around the University of Stirling campus, in the trees around the university loch and in Pathfoot. Constructed from a book, bamboo, wire-netting and water-proofing, each nest offers shelter for solitary bees, whose numbers are in steep decline

Art Curator Jane Cameron discusses Alec’s work on campus

The Art Collection currently has on display an exhibition of Alec’s work Mind Hive, as part of our Under Threat theme looking at the Environment. This series of exhibitions was due to close in September 2020. However, after the recent closure following the Covid-19 pandemic, a decision has been made to extend all current exhibitions to the end of December 2020.

Alec’s current project Day of Access is a powerful campaign which encourages estates to open their land to allow access for people affected by disability.  By using hill tracks and four-wheel drives, people who have never been able to immerse themselves in wild nature are driven into the heart Scotland’s beautiful wild landscape. In 2019 an exhibition of this project came to the Art Collection with the Travelling Gallery which comes to the University biannually.

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